May 2012 - Posts
500,000 animals to be slaughtered following pig farm health crisis
Following protests earlier this month in Chile, which led to clashes with the police and the blockading of a mega-farm, the company responsible for the farm has said it will slaughter the half million pigs left at the site when it was abandoned two weeks ago. The government intervened in the situation early last week to prevent a health crisis; officials said last Tuesday that many of the pigs left at the Agrosuper plant in the Atacama Desert had already died of dehydration and starvation.
According to government sources, the plant’s waste treatment facilities were at risk of overflowing and polluting scare local water resources following its abandonment.
The Atacama site is the world’s largest pig farm; although half a million animals were present when the plant’s employees were evacuated after days of protest by local residents, at full capacity the site can hold 2.3 million pigs. Last week, government negotiators persuaded the protestors to end their blockade of the site and allow environment officers and employees back inside, after concerns were raised over a potential health crisis.
Rioting began on 17th May in Freirina, following a month of unheeded complaints about the farm’s smell, resulting in the ‘siege’ of the plant. The government last week gave Agrosuper six months to evacuate its animals, after which officials said the plant would be closed indefinitely. However, the company told local reporters that moving the animals would be unfeasible so they will be killed on site.
Agrosuper’s chief executive, Jose Guzman said yesterday that pigs left at the farm will be slaughtered as it would take 50,000 trucks to remove the animals and the company has nowhere to take them. He said the dead pigs will be buried in specially prepared pits and the site will be disinfected.
The company has blamed the stench on a failed waste treatment system in which microorganisms should have broken down the pigs’ waste. It has also admitted to ventilation problems at the farm.
However, in the wake of the turmoil, Guzmán blamed the protestors and claimed his company was in the process of correcting problems at the site when rioting started. Local residents said the site had been a problem since September and caused those living nearby to suffer from stomach pains, headaches and other adverse reactions.
The company’s other pig and chicken farms elsewhere in Chile are also reported to have caused friction with neighbouring communities.
Farmers to be paid for feeding farmland birds
Defra has announced that farmers will be able to apply for payment through agri- environment schemes to feed farmland birds during the leanest months of winter. Beginning in January 2013, new schemes will enable farmers to access rural development funding to provide supplementary food to farmland birds.
The evidence supporting the decision, made by Defra ministers last week, was compiled during two decades of research carried out on the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust’s Allerton Project Farm at Loddington, Leicestershire, where farmland bird numbers doubled in years when additional grain seeds were provided through feed hoppers compared to years without.
Dr Alastair Leake, Head of the Allerton Project, welcomed the decision. He said, “We are delighted with Defra’s decision. It will be welcomed by farmers who plant wildlife strips for birds but know that this source of food runs out late in the winter. This new measure will help to keep their birds alive and on their farms until the breeding season. Farmers are already doing a great deal for wildlife and this is another important way that they can help their birds during lean times.”
The latest government figures show that some farmland bird populations such as grey partridge, tree sparrow, yellowhammer, reed bunting, and corn bunting have declined by over 40 per cent on average, though some species have been hit by declines of up to 90 per cent since the 1970s. However, research by groups including the RSPB at its own farms in Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire is enabling farmers to develop more wildlife friendly ways of farming.
Dr Leake added, “Supplementary feeding, a very targeted intervention will get us over this one limitation and will be enormously helpful in reversing the long-term declines of these vulnerable farmland birds.
“While we know which plant seeds birds like to eat, we also know that many of these become depleted towards the end of winter. Unfortunately, we have not yet discovered plants that will hold onto their seeds during the leanest months. Until we have developed these long-lasting seed bearing crops, which may involve breeding known bird feeding species specifically for the purpose, supplementary feeding provides the ideal stop-gap to ensure that birds survive and thrive until the breeding season.”
Pre-harvest Market Outlook to launch at Cereals
The Home Grown cereals Agency today announced that AHDB/HGCA Market Intelligence team will be launching a Pre-Harvest Market Outlook at Cereals 2012 event being held next month and will offer a short round up before each variety tour.
The agency also said its 35th HGCA Planting and Variety Survey will be arriving with farmers this week. The 35th HGCA Planting and Variety Survey has been posted out to around 7,000 growers across the country.
The Planting Survey, which is supported by Defra and the Welsh National Assembly, will provide an estimate of the area of cereals and oilseed rape planted for the 2012 crop in Great Britain.
The results of the survey, which will be used to develop a regional picture of the varieties farmers are growing, will be available online from mid July, alongside more detailed analysis based on the findings, according to HGCA.
Farming leaders call for more balanced milk contracts
Following a debate in London last week, which was attended by UK agriculture minister Jim Paice, farming unions have begun to call for the introduction of break clauses to inequitable milk supply contracts, so long as processors are allowed to dictate the terms of the agreements.
The calls come after milk processors embarked upon a ‘follow the leader’ round of price cuts between the end of April and beginning of May. Many major processors cut their prices by 2 pence per litre, before their farmers suppliers were able to feel the benefits of recent increases in the profitability of milk last year. This ignominy led to calls for radical change in the milk supply chain, where farmers are slow to see reimbursements, but feel shocks with depressing rapidity.
Following price cuts by Arla, Robert Wiseman, Dairy Crest and now farmer-owned businesses First Milk and Milk Link, farm gate prices have dropped back below the price of production for liquid milk.
At the Dairy Supply Chain Forum, which took place on Thursday, representatives from NFU Scotland stated that Defra’s forthcoming ‘code of practice’ for the dairy sector will present an opportunity to rectify the significant imbalances in the dairy supply chain by promoting more meaningful, balanced contracts. Union representatives said that, if milk buyers fail to come forward with positive proposals, politicians should step in to prevent exploitation.
Speaking after last week’s forum, NFU Scotland Vice President Allan Bowie said, "Without more balanced contractual arrangements between dairy farmers and their milk buyers, many processors will continue to take the easy route to managing their own margins by simply lowering the price they pay to farmers rather than looking to their customers.
"It would be far more positive for our dairy sector if our milk buyers were to react to changing markets by looking for alternative customers or developing alternative products. However, rather than having a long-term vision, too many processors revert to the old habit of seeking short-term gain by cutting the price paid for milk.”
Farming leaders also said that, if it is to provide any benefit to farmers, the sector Code of Practice must include substantial contractual improvements that bring better balance and fairness to arrangements between farmers and their milk buyers. Mr Bowie continued, “Where processors drop the price of milk without proper negotiation, justification or agreement – as has happened in recent days - then suppliers should have the option to resign under a shorter notice period. If this is not acceptable to processors, then we have urged our politicians to legislate.”
Under EU rules, new milk contracts will be compulsorily introduced if agreements cannt be made voluntarily.
Farming representatives used the event to call for the development of more “meaningful and constructive relationships” within the supply chain and promote the formation of cooperatives and other producer organisations to improve producers’ influence.
Horticultural termination - by a man called Arnold! Read More...
Subarctic plant fungus identified further south than expected
There have been reports of a plant disease normally found in subarctic climates affecting plants as far south as Herefordshire. The fungus Sclerotinia Subarctica has been identified for the first time in the UK in buttercups and carrots.
University of Warwick plant scientists identified the disease, which is related to Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, also known as white mould, which affects a number of crops.
The scientists who identified the fungus, which can cause carrots to rot in the ground, said their discovery means a reevaluation is needed of Sclerotinia Subarctica, as it was previously only believed to affect plants in extremely cold climates. The Warwick scientists said further research is now needed to ascertain whether the fungal disease presents a threat to susceptible crops.
Elsewhere in the UK, the recent wet weather experienced particularly in the South has given rise to a higher risk of Cavity Spot infection in carrot crops and Rhizoctonia in potato seed beds. Scientists overseeing field trials have warned that wet soil conditions in many parts favour early attack by the Pythium Violae pathogen.
The cold, wet weather is also increasing the risk of damaging Rhizoctonia in field trials in the North and East of England; poor weather means much of the UK potato crop is yet to be planted.
Potential of a silver lining, despite worldwide dairy slump
Potential of a silver lining, despite worldwide dairy slump
Wednesday 16 May 2012
Following cuts to prices by dairy giants in the UK, announced at the end of last month, large processors from around the world have followed suit; US-based Land o’ Lakes announced cuts today and Danish giant also announced $85 million in cost cuts. Prices for the industry in several global regions are dropping, after extremely good performance and high demand in 2011.
Worldwide, dairy prices are estimated to be at their lowest since mid-2009 and supply, which is still increasing, has far outstripped demand. This situation is unwelcome news for farmers the world over whose margins have been increasingly squeezed by the twin pressures of hungry processors and retailers and rising input costs.
At the beginning of the month, UK meat and dairy bodies including sheep and cattle organisation EBLEX, AHDB and pig meat lobbyists BPEX held a conference looking at the future of the meat and dairy markets in the UK, including the effects of recession and consumer choices.
Speakers at the Outlook Conference revealed that, although there has been a slump in prices, globally the dairy market has grown by over 4 per cent each year since 2005. However, consumer confidence in the UK has fallen and for the last three years wages have decreased.
Although GDP began to grow again in 2011 in the US, and only affected the Eurozone in the last quarter of the year, the UK has seen negative growth in three of the last five quarters.
However, one speaker suggested that there may be a small silver lining to the cloud covering Britain’s economy; the recent economic climate has meant consumers are sticking more to what they know, which could benefit traditional and local meat and dairy, according to analysts.
Giles Quick, of Kantar Worldpanel, revealed that, over a period of four weeks, 99.7 per cent of households in the UK buy dairy products and 84.3 per cent buy fresh red meat. Mr Quick referred to the £15 billion sector’s place at the heart of food retail and said British producers must play to their strengths to remain productive. Animal welfare and technological advances must be used to full effect, according to the economist.
Some food policy experts have agreed with this to an extent and suggested focusing on welfare and producing better quality meat and dairy, which will offer health and environmental benefits provided consumers eat it as part of a more sustainable diet. Earlier this week, the government’s environmental audit committee said more education is needed to ensure more sustainable eating habits are taken up in the country.p
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